What is a concept map?A concept map is a graphical representation of words that helps to organize ideas and also to find, draw and memorize keywords, being at the same time an effective way to take notes, facilitate preparation of a presentation and develop creativity. It was introduced for the first time in 1972 by the American researcher Donald Joseph Novak, who, while sorting and processing a lot of important data, wanted to clarify and structure his ideas.
Concept maps assume that our mind organizes and stores information in a structured way, reflecting the organization of the declarative (or explicit) memory system. Thanks to the maps, learners can become familiar with the words, deduce their meaning, organize and prioritize their ideas in a synthetic way. By visualizing a structure of meaningful relationships, learners can enrich and systematize the thematic vocabulary (not comprehensive), use the words accompanied by useful structures and they are able to express themselves better.
- To improve oral competence in L2
- To build self-confidence while speaking
- To reflect on good practices
- To list the most effective strategies
- To diversify teaching methods through educational resources
- To make educational materials attractive and relevant
- To choose lexical content and its adaptability to the level specified in the standards avoiding monotonous course books
- To improve both vocabulary and language proficiency
The maps can be used as a prompt, a warm-up, the central element of a course or as an assessment tool to verify the acquisition of the newly learned vocabulary. Photocopied, projected, sent by email or posted on Facebook, easy to access, the concept maps may be used in class or for self-study. Learners can work with the cards on their own, in pairs or in small groups. The questions that accompany the concept map can introduce the theme, but they can also be used as a basis for speaking.
- One copy of the map for every student
- Electronic dictionary
10 steps for using concept maps in the classroom
- Present the students with the topic of the map, either during the introduction or revision of the theme. Activate their prior knowledge of the topic.
Distribute the copies and divide the students into pairs or groups.
The students are not given time to read the map. Instead they are asked to choose two sections of the map and ask questions only about these parts (the first thing that comes to mind). The aim is simply to acquaint the students with the map..
If the students don’t remember the vocabulary, they (1) ask a friend, (2) look up the words in dictionaries in various formats, or (3) ask the teacher. The teacher should be a last resort.
The students choose questions from the map in any order, they get up and look for the students with whom they haven’t talked yet and ask them the questions.
The students choose in which order they will speak about some sections of the map (before the rest of the class).
The students make a list with the information they want to present. In their presentations they will have to develop two different points using at least two arguments or examples. The students can use modifiers and idiomatic expressions which will facilitate oral expression and which have been prepared by the teacher and annexed to the concept map beforehand.
The next step is to make the students complete the map with new information: words, categories or relations among them. The maps are just starting points, they are not exhaustive.
The students take the map home to practice the vocabulary. The teacher provides the students with the EMECOE link where the electronic version of the map is to be found.
Homework – working on the written composition. Choose one of the ten questions and write the answer at home.
Evaluation of work on concept maps takes into account several approaches. It can be done either in an oral way, a debate in groups or in writing, in the form of multiple questions survey.
We propose some ideas, often complementary, which can be the object of such an evaluation:
The concept map as a didactic tool in oral practice.
- The consideration of concepts (their utility, scope, organization and hierarchization).
- The choice of themes and keywords of the given map.
- The relevance of existing links between ideas.
- The richness of the content related to the main subject of the concept map.
- The quality of the graphic presentation of the scheme.
The concept map as a means of diversifying language courses.
- The alternation of interactions during the course thanks to the variety of supports (different forms of concept maps).
- The possibilities of working in pairs, groups and cooperating with others.
- The introduction of different mnemonics to help learners memorize vocabulary.
- The adaptation of the concept map to different contexts, nevertheless related to the main theme of the map.
The concept map as a starting point for writing task.
- Writing a text based on the vocabulary presented in the concept map.
- Expression of a personal idea about the concept map, in the form of an essay.
- Creation of a new concept map on another subject (e.g. vocabulary worked in progress), with the objective of self-training of students and putting into practice the technique of concept maps.
Choice of topics proposed by the Polish team as part of the EMECOE project:
|Level||Author||Language||General themes of the concept maps||Links to PDF versions and guides|
|A2||10||Justyna Strzelec||German||Food, meals, cooking||PDF – Guide in German|
|A2||11||Alina Jaworska||French||Daily life – school: places, subjects, timetable||PDF – Guide in French|
|A2||12||Barbara Mucha||Italiano||Daily life – places: coffee||PDF – Guía en italiano|
|B1||13||Barbara Klimek||French||Free time||PDF – Guide in French|
|B1||14||Aleksandra Chrupała||French||To be human. People: physical description, character, clothes||PDF – Guide in French|
|Daily life: travelling||PDF – Guide in English|
|B2||16||Carlos Alonso Hidalgo||Spanish||Political life||PDF – Guide in Spanish|
|B2||17||Alina Wojaczek||Italian||Health||PDF – Guide in Italian|
|B2||18||Renata Klimek-Kowalska||French||Culture (a piece of art)||PDF – Guide in French|